30 October, 2013

Unexpected Revelation

Yesterday was kind of a roller-coaster. I ended up leaving work early because I hadn't slept well the night before and my brain was going in 18 different directions that had nothing to do with staring at a computer monitor and scheduling training.

The biggest part of the day I'm not quite ready to share.  I'm wrapping my brain around some things, processing, and trying to put a positive spin on it.

Looking back, the unexpected highlight of my day was carpooling to a (pointless) meeting with my area's safety manager.  I was really tired to the point of acknowledging that I was talking without using my brain, and yet he kept the conversation rolling both to and from the meeting... and maybe made some faces at me during the meeting.

On the way back to our end of the world, I was totally nerding out about my safety & health class.  I complained about OSHA and bad employers and bad Congressmen.  And when I shut up long enough to let him get out 5 words I realized the guy actually knows his stuff way more that I assumed he did and cares - GENUINELY CARES - about the people he's responsible for.  He knows how bad it sucks for everyone involved when things go really wrong and is doing what he can to keep his people safe...even if it means shoveling elephant poop!

I've sat in enough (pointless) meetings to know that the general managerial perspective on employee safety is making sure everything is OSHA-compliant.  They are more concerned about covering their own - and the company's - asses than in actually being proactive and protecting their employees.  My job exists so that if something goes wrong (and it has), the people over and around me can point to a few sheets of paper and say, "not our fault...blame the injured or dead guy."

I'm glad that my people are also his people.  Though I'm sure I'm more personally invested in "my guys" than he is, I know he's more invested in them than some safety managers for other departments are.  And at the end of the day, the more people who care about my guys, the better for all of us.

28 October, 2013

Ten Things

John Scalzi posted a list of "ten things I have done that you (probably) haven't," and while I don't think my list compares to his, I thought it would be fun to come up with my own list.  Most of these are obviously Disney-related, but that's what happens when you spend your entire adult life affiliated with The Mouse.

1. Watched a veterinarian draw blood from the toe of a silverback gorilla.

2. Watched The American Adventure from both the pit below the stage and seated on the stage.

3. Been alone with the original "Jolly Holiday" dress from Mary Poppins.

4. Climbed up 2/3 of the way to the top of Cinderella Castle and looked over the parapet.  (after that, my fear of heights kicked in pretty massively).

5. Watched Magic Kingdom fireworks from the rooftops of Main Street USA.

6. Pet a baby white rhino.

7. Sang back-up for Celine Dion on a nationally-televised Christmas show.

8. Gave Drew Carey directions to the bathroom (and when he asked if he could just use the bushes nearby told him "we'd prefer you not do that sir.").

9. Rode in a van from Pittsburgh to State College (and stopped for dinner on the way) with Reel Big Fish.

10. Ran 13.1 miles in a tutu.

What about you?  What's on your list?

Too Funny to be TMI

I was Facebook messaging with Scott this evening about my thrilling return to Dr. Ponytail (OMG he started a new practice, where the people all TALK to you and LISTEN to you and... it's like the complete opposite of my primary doctor!!).  Following is a screenshot of part of our conversation...

There's really not much else I can add to that!

God bless you, iPhone auto correct!

24 October, 2013

The Ballad of JC Penney

The following is a copy of the e-mail I just sent to JC Penney "customer care" following a series of ridiculous service failures.  It's long, so I'm going to put it behind the jump, but if you're interested in call center or supply chain logistics, then this is the post for you!

19 October, 2013

Something About Pumpkins

Hello, my name is Jamie and I have a confession:

I don't get the pumpkin spice latte.

I had one a few years back, and I couldn't understand what the fuss was about.  It tasted like coffee... with cinnamon and cloves.  Every year around this time though, my social media feeds fill with breathless excitement about the "PSL."  Even McDonald's is getting into the act with a PSL of its own!  So yesterday I thought maybe the first one I had was just a fluke.  This time, I got it iced.  It was even worse than I remembered.  It was too sweet, had a bitter aftertaste, and tasted somewhat like the pumpkin hand sanitizer I have in my car that always makes my eyes water when I use it.

Here's the thing though: I love pumpkin.  Did you know this time of year McD's has a pumpkin pie?  I haven't had it, but I bet it's delicious. Tasty Pies come in pumpkin as well.  Disney carries pumpkin fudge, and once upon a time I was even able to get a pumpkin-fudge-covered apple there.  Delicious!  Jello's instant pumpkin pudding is delicious as-is, or in any number of different no-bake pies.  Pumpkin breads, muffins, or cake?  Yes, please!  And of course, the most wondrous pumpkin treat of all...

The Little Debbie Pumpkin Cake is the happiest seasonal snack of all.  I distinctly remember one year in high school that my mom bought A LOT of these at the Arnold thrift store and froze them.  I would rather have one of these than any other packaged sweet treat, even the oatmeal cream pie.

So maybe if there was a pumpkin coffee beverage that tasted more like pumpkin than potpourri I would love it.  Maybe I would even lose my s--t over it like everyone else.  But for now I think I'll stick with my regular coffee and enjoy pumpkin in other incarnations.

16 October, 2013

100% Awesome (and 0% modest)

Today has been a wildly awesome day for my internal number nerd.  It's also been a day where I shamelessly bragged about various things to anyone who would listen politely.  And since I haven't gotten all of the bragging out yet, here we are!

First of all, I don't recall whether I've mentioned my Workplace Safety and Health class.  Basically, the title is self-explanatory.  I took it because it's interesting to me (most of my job revolves around OSHA-mandated training) and because the company is reimbursing me for it.  Win-win!  Anyway, I'm fairly familiar with the subject material, and the requirements for assignments have been very clear.  So I managed to get 100% on all of the assignments up to the midterm.  I knew that the odds were slim that I'd be able to pull off a perfect score, but I was still disappointed that my exam grade was a 94.  Yep...I'm not sure when it happened, but I have become that person.  The one who humble-brags about "only" getting a 94.

The instructor sent out an email to the class today discussing the midterm, and he mentioned that there was a "slight curve" applied to our exam grades, so I logged in right away to check.  Imagine my shock, wait...perhaps GLEE is a better word, when I saw that my exam grade was curved up to 100%.  Yep...halfway through the class I still have a perfect grade!  (we won't mention that I'm scraping by with an A- and B+ in my other two classes right now)

Keeping with the perfect theme, last week I told my "bad news bears"/"mighty ducks" department that if they had a perfect regulatory score this week I would bake cookies for all of them.  I tried this trick a few months ago, and a manager screwed it up.  But hey - just one delinquency isn't so bad.  For the team that was consistently dragging down the rest of my region for my first two years, I was thrilled.  Anyway, the monkeys actually managed to clear out all of their delinquencies this week.  I guess that means I need to start mixing dough so I can make enough slice and bake rolls to cook up this weekend to feed NINETY people.

This department was my last holdout to get to the 100-mark at least once.  My next challenge is to get the entire region to 100%...preferably on the week that they run the "global compliance" report.  Everyone needs a goal, right?

Speaking of the global report, last month I was over the moon thrilled that my region was up to 99.6%.  Not only was it our highest score ever, but it was a full percentage point higher than any of my peers' areas.  I sent an absolutely gushing email to all of the managers in my region thanking them for their hard work, dedication, blah blah blah.  And I meant every word.

I should have waited a month.

I couldn't believe my eyes when this month's report came out and my region was up to 99.9%!  To be fair, they are actually at 99.87, but the one-decimal rounding works in my favor.  Across my entire domain, there are a handful of smaller departments at 100%, but I've got to say my region is a HUGE sparkling diamond of awesomeness.

It's really nice to have quantitative measurements to point to and say "this is good."  And because I'm not actually a trainer or a manager out there seeing what really is or isn't working, I sort of live and die by the numbers.  Rationally, I know that what I see is only a small part of the overall equation that keeps things running and keeps my people safe, and I'm an even smaller part of that equation.  

The thing about my region's success that makes me so happy is that I genuinely believe I have streamlined the process enough that when I'm finally ready to move on, they will do just as well without me...they'll just miss my sparkling personality and charm.


Anyway, this ego trip has taken me halfway to the moon.  It's probably best that I return to Earth now.  Thanks for coming along on the journey.  And next time I'm having a pity party, someone please remind me about today.

06 October, 2013

Tower of Terror 10-Miler, Times Two

Oh hi, guess what! I ran ten miles last night.  You're probably wondering why I didn't tell any of you in advance that I would be running.  Truth is, I didn't find out for sure I'd be running until Thursday.  I was given the opportunity, and despite my hip muscle issues I said, "well, I'm scheduled to do an 8 mile training run this weekend anyway...what's another two?"  Literally, those words. 

Who IS this crazy girl?

It turns out my hip (which was still bugging me on Friday) was just fine when I woke up Saturday.  And unlike the miserable weather last year, it was under 80 degrees (barely) and less than 90% humidity (by about 5%).  There was even a breeze...once or twice.

I'm not going do recount the whole course - lots was unchanged from last year - but I did manage to get the two pictures I wished I had gotten last year: the skeleton wearing a race bib and the lady whose sign made me cry last year.  I actually stopped and told her I remembered her and thanked her for being there. 

Despite my lack of training, I felt strong for nearly the whole race.  For the first two miles, my pace was actually below a 14 minute mile, and I knew I needed to slow down.  Unlike last year, when the first two miles were my hardest, I was pretty miserable from miles 3-5 this time.  I was actually getting chills, so I shortened some of my run intervals until I cooled down a little bit.

My stats from last night:
5K split: 45:51
10K split: 1:36:30
Finish: 2:39:27

I'd like to pause here to point out that my net finish translates to a 15:57 minute/mile pace.  This is the first long race where I finished faster than a 16 minute/mile!  I also beat last year's time by nearly 4 minutes...even though I stopped to talk to the lady with the sign and stopped 2 miles later to hug Matthew at the medical tent where he was working.

Overall place: 8189 of 9478 finishers
Division place: 838 of 1003 finishers

Some day I'll be fast enough to run one of these races and stop for pictures.  There were a few characters last night I regretted not being able to stop and pose with - the evil queen from Snow White (in wicked witch form!!!), Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, and Hades from Hercules come to mind.

I was on my own this year, mostly due to my last-minute registration, and I made some decent decisions I want to note for future reference.  Rather that wear a belt pack, I stuck with shorts with pockets (and a tight drawstring).  In one pocket, I kept my little boxes of Craisins - my race fuel of choice - and in the other pocket, I had a snack-size zip-top bag with my ID, credit card, and spare car key (my purse was in the trunk of the car with all my other stuff).  I safety pinned the bag inside the pocket, and then "locked" it in by pinning the pocket closed.  I also pocketed a folded Disney merchandise bag, mostly because they fold flat quite nicely.  That bag stayed in my pocket until after I crossed the finish line, and then I pulled it out and put the bottles of water and Power Ade, snack box, and other assorted stuff in it.  It's tough to juggle 18 things at once, especially with post-hot-race sausage fingers, and the bag made it so much easier to navigate post-race.

...and of course, no race post would be complete without a tally of assorted injuries.  I have some random spots of friction burn in weird places - the underside of one arm and a few patches around the bottom of the bra I was wearing.  I have one blister: a nickel-size one near the hot spot from my old shoes.  And of course, most of my leg and foot muscles are stiff and achy.  My ankles are also cracking a lot.  My worst injury actually took place on Friday and was aggravated yesterday.  At some point I got a piece of dirt or gravel in my shoe and did a lot of walking.  A blister formed under my second toe, right where it meets my foot, and popped.  It's not a place where a bandage would ever stick, so the best I could do was slather it with Neosporin.  Judging by the damage there now, I'd say the original blister rubbed itself even bigger, and another blister might have formed underneath.  It's angry red, and hurts like a mo-fo when I wiggle my toes, but I think a few days of Neosporin and socks will cure me.

At the end of the day though, nothing can stop me from smiling with pride at what I have accomplished.  Last year, I trained for six months for this race.  This year, I was in shape (well...more in shape) enough to do it at the last minute.  AND I got a PR!  And now, my first ever race medal has a little brother.  Pretty sweet, right?

Next Races:
December 14: Tap 'n Run 4k
February 22: Disney's Enchanted 10k (day 1 of the Glass Slipper Challenge)
February 23: Disney's Princess Half Marathon (day 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge)
March 2: (tentative) Excalibur 10-Miler